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Voices of UNC and who is heard

This week Policy Watch spoke with UNC Board of Governors member Marty Kotis about the controversial recommendation to return the Silent Sam Confederate statue and the outrage and protests it has inspired.

In suggesting UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and teaching assistants withholding final grades over the plan should be terminated, expelled and barred from future association with any UNC school, Kotis  said he  believed those frustrated with the decades-long issue are trying to achieve change the wrong way.

“There are ways in a democracy to change the things you disagree with,” Kotis said. “You lobby. You vote. You get laws changed. This can’t be how you do it. It can’t be 80 or 100 people deciding these things for everyone, for every school and every student in the system.”

This inspired some spirited reaction from the UNC community who insisted that they have literally pursued every peaceful, democratic avenue available to them to oppose the statue but have been virtually ignored – except in the instances wherein they have been publicly mocked and insulted by members of the Board of Governors and the North Carolina General Assembly.

Indeed, as UNC PhD student James Sadler points out,  nearly every significant faculty, staff and student organization at UNC has gone on record opposing the monument’s placement on campus and supporting those protesting.

The will of those who actually make up the UNC community and the statements of those representing them could hardly be clearer, Sadler argues.

Beyond UNC, more than 120 faculty and and workers at UNC rival Duke University have signed a statement in solidarity with those at UNC opposing the statue’s return to campus.

But, as has been apparent through minor squabbles and major conflicts on the Board of Governors for several years, who the board is supposed to represent is unclear.

Many on the board, appointed by the conservative dominated legislature and stacked with former GOP legislators, lobbyists, former lobbyists and business associates of Republican lawmakers, has been fairly open about seeing its job as carrying out the will not of the UNC community but of the legislature itself.

With that being the case, many in the UNC community are now asking, is there any route for the expressed will of those who make up the community to compete the will of those in power in Raleigh? Should the university system be run as an extension of political arms of government?

The UNC Board of Governors meets Friday and will discuss the proposal to return Silent Sam to UNC.

Unlike most of its meetings, no public comment will be allowed.

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